OF JUDGMENT: 10/08/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES D. BELL
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: PIETER JOHN TEEUWISSEN ANTHONY
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: BRANDON CURRIE JONES DAVID WAYNE
RANDOLPH, PRESIDING JUSTICE.
Tasha Dillon contested the results of the August 4, 2015,
Democratic primary for Mississippi House of Representatives
("House") District 98. The Democratic primary's
purpose was to determine the party's candidate or nominee
in the November general election. The Pike County Circuit
Court dismissed the case for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction. Dillon appealed. As the circuit court erred in
finding it lacked jurisdiction, we reverse and remand for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Tasha Dillon and David Myers were candidates in the
Democratic primary for House District 98, held in Walthall
and Pike Counties. The Pike County Election Commission
("PCEC") certified Myers as the winner by a vote of
2, 003 to 1, 859. On August 24, Dillon filed a petition of
contest with the Mississippi Democratic Executive Committee
("MDEC") and filed an amended petition on September
1. Two days later, Dillon petitioned the Pike County Circuit
Court for judicial review, as provided in Mississippi Code
In the circuit-court proceeding, the Pike County Board of
Election Commissioners and the Pike County Circuit Clerk
("Election Officials") moved to intervene. The
Election Officials moved to dismiss for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction. Myers filed a separate motion to
dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Following a
hearing on the motions, the Pike County Circuit Court
dismissed the contest for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction, reasoning that Article 4, Section 38 of the
Mississippi Constitution and Section 23-15-955 of the
Mississippi Code controlled, but acknowledging the existence
of conflicting caselaw on the issue. Dillon appealed.
Dillon raises two issues on appeal, which have been restated
I. Whether the trial court erred in dismissing for lack of
II. Whether the trial court erred in allowing the Election
Officials to intervene.
Whether the trial court erred in dismissing for lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction.
This Court reviews questions of law, including jurisdictional
questions, de novo. McDaniel v. Cochran,
158 So.3d 992, 995 (Miss. 2014); McCain Builders, Inc. v.
Rescue Rooter, LLC, 797 So.2d 952, 954 (Miss.
Dillon argues the circuit court had jurisdiction pursuant to
Mississippi Code Section 23-15-927. Myers argues the House had
exclusive jurisdiction pursuant to Section 38 of the
Mississippi Constitution. Caselaw arguably supports both
In the 2003 Republican Primary for House District 56, Jep
Barbour was certified the winner over his opponent, Phillip
Gunn. Barbour v. Gunn, 890 So.2d 843, 844 (Miss.
2004). Gunn filed a contest with the State Republican
Executive Committee. Id. When the executive
committee failed to act promptly, Gunn sought judicial
review. Id. The Circuit Court of Hinds County
ordered a new election in two precincts. Id. Barbour
appealed, arguing the circuit court lacked jurisdiction
because Gunn had not given the executive committee time to
act. Id. at 846. This Court held
that the trial court properly found that it had jurisdiction
to proceed in this matter. Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-927
plainly states that an election "contestant shall have
the right forthwith to file in the circuit court of the
county wherein the irregularities are charged to have
occurred, " if the "executive committee having
jurisdiction shall fail to promptly meet or having met shall
fail or unreasonably delay to fully act upon the contest or
complaint, or shall fail to give with reasonable promptness
the full relief required by the facts and the law."
Id. at 847. Barbour supports Dillon's
Conversely, Myers argues the jurisdictional exclusivity of
Section 38 of the Mississippi Constitution controls and was
neither raised nor argued by either Barbour or Gunn. Indeed,
this Court previously has held that Section 38 applies to
primary election contests for the Mississippi Legislature
(albeit without addressing Section 247 of the Constitution,
which specifically addresses party primary elections).
See Foster v. Harden, 536 So.2d 905 (Miss. 1988);
Henry v. Henderson, 697 So.2d 447 (Miss. 1997).
In Foster, two candidates were certified for a
runoff election in the Democratic primary for Senate District
28. Foster, 536 So.2d at 906. Foster was not
certified and filed a petition with the executive committee
challenging the qualifications of the candidates certified to
run in the primary runoff. Id. When the committee
denied her petition, Foster sought judicial review.
Id. Harden filed a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Section 38 of the
Mississippi Constitution. Id. When the trial court
dismissed, Foster appealed. Id. This Court found
Section 38 "provides in unambiguous language that each
house of the legislature 'shall judge of the
qualifications, return and election ...